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THE FUTURES of LEARNING : What kind of pedagogies for the 21st century?


Cynthia Luna Scott  


Date published: 



21st century pedagogy should be based on three principles: personalisation, participation and productivity, where learners are no longer considered spectators, but active participants who collaborate in the creation of new ideas and knowledge. This peer interaction promotes the emergence of a model of “transfer”, where individuals need to apply new knowledge, skills and competencies in different situations (facilitating the acquisition of metacognitive abilities).

Pedagogy 2.0 sees a redefinition of the roles of both teachers and learners, co-collaborating in the production of course content. Personalised learning allows students to explore areas of personal interest, whilst a context of Problem-Solving based learning promotes building knowledge and skills in the process. This facilitates a shift from “transmission” to “transfer”, since collaboration and communication challenge learners to express and defend their own ideas and positions with the purpose of coming to a common negotiated conclusion. Seemingly, tasks based on relatable, realistic scenarios facilitate student engagement, creativity and innovation.


When examining the author’s choice of sources to inform this working paper, it is evident that many of them are from research conducted in Europe, a few are directly from New Zealand and none of them really reflect the unique bicultural context of Aotearoa. Moreover, Scott cites findings from the OECD’s 2008 Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS). This could lead one to ponder where we actually are at in relation to delivering 21st century skills effectively when the research we are presented with is a decade old, particularly in such an evolving context. 

Another limitation comes, arguably, from the purpose of education. Scott starts from the premise that the purpose of education is to prepare the learners for the 21st century world. This definition could be considered a bit vague: does it refer to the 21st century labour market? According to the OECD, Education 2030 is about “helping every learner to develop as a whole person”. This aspirational profile for education is not that clear in Scott’s working paper. While the OECD document starts with this statement, Scott mentions this in the conclusion but only after saying that “learners are missing out on experiences that will prepare them for more satisfying lives and productive work”.

Criticism might also arise from the long list of requirements for educators, needing to not only shift pedagogical approaches but also become more digitally literate, design personalised learning plans, continuously create flexible life-like scenarios etc, in a context where an ageing population of educators is already stretched, underpaid and leaving the profession. 

Finally, the article is like an ideal “shopping list” of components/elements for a 21st Century Pedagogy, but lacks integration. What are the 21C challenges? What is the new profile of a learner? What is the purpose of education and schooling? Achieving this level of change across a school/the whole sector is still a long way off and would involve a shift in thinking from the school leadership, coordinated across primary, secondary and tertiary. The assessments/ qualifications/ standards don't necessarily match these priorities, particularly considering the schism between primary and secondary school.


Mobile technologies and Social Media have had a massive impact in the idiosyncrasy of the learners, facilitating collaboration and communication and giving them a voice; blurring the boundaries between formal and informal learning. These emerging new technologies offer a seamless integration between school and home life (learn anywhere-anytime). Learning outside the education system has the potential to offer students new opportunities (even student-driven) and educators can create learning environments that bring learners together, in order to collaborate beyond time and space.Technology can also offer an opportunity to enhance inclusion (for those facing physical or economic limitations). Despite all this, ICT on its own is not going to ensure quality education. Educators need to differentiate between the tool and the product, transforming themselves from content conveyors to content curators. In this way, teachers move away from delivering knowledge in favour of measuring and guiding the learning of students. The main aim of 21CE is to build the learners capacity to become lifelong learners and to do this teachers need to become “learning coaches”, actively constructing knowledge with learners in the classroom.


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